A popular school fundraiser is just ‘junk-food marketing to kids,’ experts say

These programs, most of which are wildly popular at U.S. schools, may have major downsides for students. Critics say they are designed to sell junk food to children too young to make good health decisions.

For 43 years, schoolkids and their parents have clipped the labels from cookie bags and cracker boxes as part of a popular rewards program called Labels for Education.

Through this and similar programs — think Tyson’s Project A+ or General Mills’ Box Tops for Education — schools get cash and supplies in exchange for clipped labels from participating food items.

But these programs, most of which are wildly popular at U.S. schools, may have major downsides for students. Critics say they are designed to sell junk food to children too young to make good health decisions.

Just this month, as Labels for Education wound down — a result of declining participation, said its parent company, Campbell’s — public health advocates cheered the end of a program widely beloved by teachers, schools and parents. It included snack foods, such as cookies and crackers, that many health advocates say should be discouraged.

“It’s just another form of junk-food marketing to kids,” said Colin Schwartz, a senior nutrition policy associate at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, one of several groups that has celebrated the demise of Labels for Education. “We’re glad to see Campbell’s ending its program, and we’re calling on other companies to take the same step.”

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